MANILA - Bishop Broderick Pabillo has vowed to continue working for justice and the protection of the environment as he officially takes the helm at the Catholic Church's mission territory in northern Palawan.
Addressing local officials during his installation mass on Thursday, Pabillo said he is open to dialogue and work with politicians. But he warned that this does not mean he will stop from issuing criticisms whenever called for.
"Ibig kong makipagtulungan sa inyo para sa ikabubuti ng pamayanan. Pero sana maintindihan ninyo na kung minsan makakarinig kayo ng mabibigat na puna. Hindi 'yan nangangahulugan na tinitira ko kayo personally. Maging professional at mature lamang tayo," said Pabillo, who assumed his new role as the vicar of the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay.
[I want to cooperate with you for the sake of our community. But I hope you understand that sometimes you will hear intense criticisms. It does not mean that I am attacking you personally. Let's be professional and mature.]
The 66-year-old bishop added that his primary concern is protecting the people and the environment from exploitation.
"Ang aking magiging layunin lamang ay liwanagan ang mga tao sa katotohanan, isulong ang katarungan, pangalagaan ang kalikasan na biyaya ng Manlilikha para sa lahat at hindi lang para sa iilan, at panindigan ang karapatan ng bawat tao sapagkat bawat isa ay mahalaga," he said.
[My goal is to enlighten the people in truth, uphold justice, protect the environment which is a grace from the Creator for all of us not for the few, and to defend the right of every person because everyone is important.]
With his transfer in Palawan, known for its rich biodiversity, Pabillo is expected to encounter various environmental issues.
Perhaps most notable case in the previous years is the murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Doc Gerry Ortega in the neighboring Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa.
Palawan also made headlines earlier this year when it held a plebiscite on the proposal to divide the province into three. After intense campaigns from both camps, which also involved Catholic leaders, the "no" vote prevailed.
"Hindi lang ako sasawsaw sa kalagayan ng lokal na Simbahan. Balak kong bumabad sa kanila, lalo na sa kalagayan ng mga nasa tabi-tabi at nasa laylayan ng lipunan. Sana po tanggapin ninyo ako," the prelate said.
"Para sa inyo na ako ngayon. Sisikapin kong ibuhos ang aking sarili sa inyo. Hindi ako pipigil na magsasalita at kikilos upang iligtas kayo sa panganib at sa mga paglilinlang."
[I will not just simply meddle in the state of the local Church. I want to spend time with them, especially with those who are marginalized. I hope you will accept me.]
In his 15 years as assisting bishop in Manila, Pabillo was known for his sharp statements in various social issues.
He did not mince words in criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte's violent drug war. He was also a staunch opponent of the controversial Reproductive Health Law, which was enacted during the late president Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino III's term. He even castigated fellow Church leaders for not being vocal enough against the "social evils" in the country.
But Pabillo's transfer in Palawan is also a homecoming for him. Ordained as priest of the Salesians of St. John Bosco in 1982, he served as parish priest of St. Ezequiel Moreno Parish in Puerto Princesa City before his elevation to the episcopacy.
"Himala ng Diyos na ako ay makabalik sa Palawan. Talagang gusto ko na ako ay makabalik uli at maglingkod dito sa Palawan. Pero isang malaking milagro na ang hangaring ito ay natupad," the prelate said.
[It is a miracle of God that I was able to return to Palawan. I really want to return here and serve. It was a huge miracle that my desire was granted.]
The Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay was established in 2002.
Church law states that an apostolic vicariate is a "certain portion of the people of God which has not yet been established as a diocese due to special circumstances and which, to be shepherded, is entrusted to an apostolic vicar or apostolic prefect who governs it in the name of the Supreme Pontiff."
As a mission territory, it is directly under the jurisdiction of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, currently headed by Pabillo's former archbishop in Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
The scaled-down installation was held without the presence of other high-ranking Church figures, including Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula and Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown, who could not leave the capital due the pandemic lockdown.
Instead, Pabillo was installed by Bishop Socrates Mesiona of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa. Also present was Pabillo's predecessor, Bishop Edgardo Juanich.